December 26, 2011 09:50
The crew of the Russian trawler Sparta, which was stranded in the ice on the Ross Sea near the coast of Antarctica, applauded as the Korean icebreaker Araon appeared on Christmas Day to rescue them after 10 days stuck in the ice.
At around 4:50 p.m. on Sunday, the Araon reached the distressed 500-ton fishing vessel, which had crashed into a 900-m iceberg some 3,704 km off the coast of New Zealand, tearing a 200-cm hole in its hull. The accident caused the Sparta to lean 10 degrees but fortunately it did not sink after tilting sideways. When the Araon came within 200 m of the Russian trawler, it dispatched four engineers aboard rubber boats to retrieve the fishermen.
The Sparta had become stranded while fishing on the Ross Sea at 11 a.m. on Dec. 15. Some of its crew attempted to escape on rubber boats as the sea water filled up the ship's hull, but to no avail.
Several days after it was reported stranded, a New Zealand Air Force cargo plane dropped off food and a pump to keep the crew well-nourished and ensure they could empty the sea water from the ship to stay afloat. But their problems were far from over. They were too far from the coast, and the deteriorating weather conditions made it impossible for spare parts to be delivered, so they were unable to repair the ship.
The crew contacted the Russian Foreign Ministry, which appealed for help to the Araon, as it was anchored in Christchurch, New Zealand, around 3,700 km away. The Araon left port on Dec. 18 and found the Sparta seven days later at a point in the Ross Sea 60 km away from the original scene of the accident, when they began the rescue mission.
The head of the Korean rescue team said of the ongoing mission, "We are inspecting the ship to see whether it can be repaired. If the team concludes that it is beyond help, we will take the crew back to safety."
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